Kaesong park gets back to business

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Kaesong park gets back to business

After 166 days of closure, North and South Korea reopened the Kaesong Industrial Complex yesterday, and around 60 percent of the companies performed test runs of production lines and put their premises in order.

The Unification Ministry reported yesterday that more than 800 South Korean businesspeople crossed the heavily militarized border in the morning to start up their idle assembly lines.

Over 32,000 North Korean workers also returned to the factory park as of 2 p.m. yesterday, the ministry that oversees inter-Korean relations said. That was about two-thirds of the 53,000 workers withdrawn by the North on April 9 after Pyongyang complained about military provocations from Seoul and the United States and “insulting” newspaper articles in South Korea claiming it would never close the park because it needed the foreign exchange it earned from there.

Kaesong was the last surviving joint venture of the Sunshine Policy days of rapprochement between North and South.

And after its escape from a near-death experience, a third round of negotiations by the joint North-South committee for the Kaesong complex was held yesterday to address some issues unresolved in previous rounds.

A timetable for setting up Internet services and allowing businessmen to use mobile phones in the park were among the issues discussed yesterday. The two sides also discussed a radio frequency identification tag system that will speed up vehicles going in and out of the border city.

Seoul hopes that allowing Internet services at the park will encourage companies from other countries with a presence in the South to invest in the special joint venture zone.

The two sides also discussed ways to make up for losses incurred from the five-month shutdown. Those would be on top of previous agreements to exempt South Korean companies from paying taxes from last year and to allow them to delay their 2013 tax payments to the end of this year.

The companies, who use North Korea’s relatively cheap labor on their light industry assembly lines, reported to the government in June that they lost 1.05 trillion won ($970.2 million) from the shutdown.

Meanwhile, Seoul and Pyongyang yesterday exchanged final lists of families to be included in the reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort from Sept. 25-30. The Korean Red Cross, which is in charge of organizing the meetings, said 96 South Korean elders will travel to the resort while North will send 100 family members. They are from families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. These will be the first reunions in three years.

The oldest person from the South is Kim Sung-yun, a 95-year-old woman who will be reunited with her 80-year-old sister and two other relatives.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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